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Monthly Archives

July 2019

Poetry Writing Part 5

By | News, Poetry
the last post    
in my last blog entry I listed a number of ‘modes’ for the composition of a poem the peripatetic, the here-and-now view, the political – the bearing witness mode (was where I got stuck) 

it seems like a hundred years ago I was in Hong Kong, worrying about Hong Kong… though we should still all be worried about Hong Kong 

… and now I’m home – and that is a very distracting way to be (more on that in a minute)… nevertheless I promised  a poem in the annotation mode 

what is it, you ask, a poem in the annotation mode? It is a response drafted on the page to an existing poem, already in print … i.e. it’s scribble in the margins you could type up later to make a poem and that new poem would have some relationship to the original poem from which you were working / to which you are responding 

a lot of people worry that this kind of thing will lead to plagiarism and of course it could if you were careless or that way inclined … my principle with this kind of work is however simply ‘in the presence so a poem comes’ i.e. spend time with good poems in order to make a good poem yourself 

…a lot of what I produce in the way of annotations is only vaguely connected with the original poem… however when I think there’s a chance of an actual response I could call a response, then I put the word ‘after’ at the top of the page I’m working on 

let me give you a quick example almost at random from out of the mighty pile of already annotated books of poems that need attention (need their annotations typed up to see if they can be poems), seeing the word ‘after’ at the top of the page I picked from Shuntaro Tanikawa’s lovely little Vagabond book (thanks Michael Brennan and friend) a little poem called ‘Mere Words’, which starts 

Having turned into mere words, 
the mountain is dimly squatting. 
The port under an overcast sky 
is thinking of something. 

and so now, for you, let’s see if I can conjure up a poem from my annotations responding, more or less, to this idea


after the words 

things, happenings
silences more brutal

back to sleep

came from words to here
but fold in
armed with sweet saying

somewhat less the record shows
like a world spun once too many

breath after breath staged
so much of it has gone on in words

mute truth of themselves
reflected in a page
pale air

there’s nothing proud about the mountain
and it’s all standing still
testament – our admiration

but everything on it’s moving, alive
thinking – where next, where’s home

that’s pretty close to just the notes of the page
but I’ve played with their order a bit
… it’s now a draft to come back to
and I think I can call it a response because it does speculate along the lines Tanikawa was speculating
so I think this gives you an idea of how the annotation mode could work for you
… maybe you want to respond to my response?
you see how this is a kind of open-ended conversation?

I guess the thing about the modes is that the best thing is to invent your own
if you can afford to…

people who say that they don’t read other people’s stuff cause they don’t want to be influenced … well, they’re not really poets… to be a poet you have to be constantly studying the craft… the only way to be a poet is to make poems; the only way to make poems is to be constantly learning from everything around you and especially from the poems that are everywhere around you if you care to listen and look …

and be discerning of course… remember there’s more good poetry being written in the world today than ever before (reams of it every day) and as a natural consequence, there’s more bad stuff too… it would be caveat emptor if anyone ever got paid for the stuff


anyway with being at home, here’s the thing, I did truly distract myself… for instance
I wrote a recipe poem which I was going to include here, but there wasn’t room…
but that led me to think what a nice anthology that could be … a collection of recipe poems by Australian poets… one thing leads to another… and remember Sterne –‘digression is the sunshine of the text’…
because I kept coming back to the to-do list … very important … that’s how I remembered to do the annotation work for you…
here to finish
(and to emphasise the importance and value of distraction
and how often you should just go with it)
are two drafts (from last night and this morning)
which are simply in the here-and-now observation mode
(or observation and action, I could say, in the case of the fire poem)

pile burning 
(midwinter thing)

little sun we make
to chase around
and backs to
can revolve

could chase a fire like that all day

better to start with dusk
clocks gone home

hard to know what to let
no hard edges here
but that the day runs out

stand smoke aside
and mainly just be watchful
breeze attentive
have a bucket for the symbol

you don’t want this in summer
don’t want the fuel around

the pile gets going
you think
what can we add?
what has to go?

stars fall
and stars spin up
(other poems are full of them ­–
throw old poems on)

it falls in on itself
needs feeding

we find a leant-up
decaying door

I suspect original
the 1948 door
through which cows must have come

a little ragged round the edges
but the fire was hot
we threw it on

that door was a way in
we burnt it
now it’s gone 

adventure in feathers

and overcast, no matter

well into the morning
when this swamp hen
takes to the roof
one is tempted to think
because it is there

what use a roof to almost flightless?
 pond traipser –
the white-arsed swampy Jesus of birds

one wonders if the tribe will follow
but no, a solo show

they haven’t much of a tune
but you could always hear them
issues of territory, love quarrels

now a clatter too

at least this one is
who holds the roof
for decoration

and from there
gets up in the touching tree
half flutter
could say climbing

precarious to perch
its moment swaying

nothing like a thunderbolt
it glides
to pond

at least to me


now, if after all of this you want more of me, you can go to my website
it’s kitkelen.com
or find me on facebook
or on the 366 blog
where you can find draft stuff I and others put up every day
or howsabout you buy a book of mine
like for instance my latest
Poor Man’s Coat – Hardanger Poems 
if you’re interested in taking the complete course in poetry writing
you could grab yourself a copy of my workbook
Throwing Words Together – 101 Poetry Making Exercises
(rare as hen’s teeth)

at a pinch you can message or e-mail me
at KitKelen@emeritus.umac.mo

don’t’ you hate the way poets promote themselves so shamelessly?
but really what’s a bear to do?
bump bump bump on the back of the head
coming down the stairs
there must be another way
but now he’s introduced to you

think back
Pooh says ‘I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget’

Poetry Writing Part 4

By | News, Poetry

Poetry Process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen

I want to write a poem about the different modes of process I encounter in drafting poems. I started these posts with what I call the peripatetic mode; that is, drafting while walking. This is something I do all the time (almost daily), but particularly in a place like Norway, where the walking is so spectacular – so spectacular in fact that the Norwegians see themselves as being ‘on tour’ whenever the opportunity arises.

So here’s how I started…

where is a poem from?
(towards a catalogue of modes)

out of an ache or an itch?
from habit, difference, repetition

o say can you see

there is the peripatetic
else how are we here?
a sauntering and sidle up

of the weather
now and then lightning strikes

go breathlessly
tumble to wash
the poem with topic, theme
tune, temper

tell only the truth
that way more truth comes
it’s epic
and it can be sung

the poem of its politics
the wake-up

no two suns the same

here’s day or could be dreaming
there is from sleep with pen beside
and often over/under scrawl

in annotation mode
(so in, let’s say, the presence)

climbs out from under a pile of words
and sometimes sorry for itself

the here-and-now diaristic
glad of a season and stretch
a catalogue of fancies

no moment like this

you should have seen the other fish

the temperate
all wise saws

and there is the tropic
everything is something else
so let the poem be
it’s lovely to be naked
playing under the sprinkler

how rainbows have fallen
there isn’t the ice now to hold up the poem

in all innocence
how hungrily it leaps now
there isn’t the night to hide

So that was the plan for last week

landing in Hong Kong on my way home
put me firmly in the political mode
because of what’s happening there
… so I drafted this

old play book
(poem for Hong Kong)

remember this!

thugs show up from nowhere
but they were always here
there and everywhere

because the people rose

they were waiting for the signal
ours and among us

where are the police today?

could be anytime

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

what does that sound like to you?
something like this has happened before

this is the city that will remember
these millions are just themselves

see them on the street to say

dress all the same today
it’s white shirt and chopper
(Yuen Long fashion)

someone stands up says

where do we empty out the words?

the ones making history won’t know it

and the mocking laughter comes
are they anyone’s brothers, sons?

the ones in the uniforms
the ones who improvise
buy a steel bar in the hardware store
flash mob, pop up anywhere

loyal to what they are told, to a dollar
they are the terror today

with cudgel, with chopper
we know the kind of world they wish

where are the police?
when will they come?

‘I have the right’ somebody says
‘I know what things are over the border
how they are’

will you know a fascism when it comes?
can you hear the hot breath of how it has been?

the monsters are out on the streets again
long leash they have
and feel so free
(does not require intelligence
but they feel their love is true)

could be anywhere now, tomorrow

the big monsters and the little
the ones who pay
those who are paid
see them shaking hands
what a great job everyone’s doing

and the people are out to be themselves
to simply say ‘it’s us
don’t forget’

the border is shrivelling up now
the border is almost gone

it is a ceremony ¬– difference

do you know how this ends?

names in a book
summary justice
not justice at all

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

we know how it is over there
there is no information

tyranny leads away from truth
from rights

how prosperous we’ve been
it was a cure for poverty
to smog the sky
beyond a breath
but everyone believed

so sad
so sad so wrong

we have been too many
now so small

the thugs are out again to say
‘don’t dare
don’t think this place is yours
or that you will decide’

how weary the world is with this story
and here we come
the monsters are out again

something sharp in the hand
they hospitalise
strike like a storm
where you won’t know

we know how things are handled here

will you be among those who stood?
or hide, like me, at home in words?

somewhere to otherside the world
in a future no one can foresee

I hear it
a murmur
they are adding to a long list of names
poor poor old Hong Kong

I remember how it ends
how the tanks roll over all who stand

stand up!
they are coming again

tribes of ‘don’t know’
brigades of forget
thugs who thrilled with the kill

here is the city that will remember
fly in the ointment
thorn in the inside

and go about your business

the point however is to change the world

do you think they’ll let it go this time?

it’s only a simple thing to wish
everyone fights to be free

and someone says
‘get real
politics is an art of the possible’

they cart you off for what you believe
they call a bullet law

will they leave flowers?
will you be among those who stood?

to save ourselves from dictatorship
this is everyone’s lifework

some take to the streets
some creep in a poem

whichever way you witness
protection from tyranny

the song says ‘stand up’
won’t you?
won’t we?

or is it just a song?

so sad
so sad
so wrong
poor, poor Hong Kong


more on the modes
and particularly the annotation mode
in my last post
next week

Poetry Writing Part 3

By | News, Poetry
Poetry process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen 
and what a week it’s been, poetry process enthusiasts… there we were, up above the Arctic Circle, experiencing the midnight sun … first on land (over the water)

… so mainly I was inspired to draft just from where I was, just writing things as they were in the moment for me:
we went to see the midnight sun
Teigan - Hadsel Øye, Vesterlån

we went to see the midnight sun
on the other side of an island nearby
we went to Teigan - on Hadsel Øye,
in Vesterlån it is

so much brighter than you’d imagine
bounces along
runs a ring
delivers pinking stillness
like breath held for a non-event

flowers make the most of it
especially tiril tunga
somebody’s tongue
caught the colour

this sun leaves winged ones wondering
but a traffic in fish goes on

throws shadows on turf roofs, on the water
fields of fresh mown, lit green, yet to yellow
such shadows in the mountains
tree casting this way, that

this is the everyday unending
one cannot but be awed

the moon was up for company
paled at the very thought

and must not look at the main attraction
or see it in everything seared

of course I forgot sunglasses
ironic at the time because
I was writing a story about them
but it’s well past eleven and you wouldn’t think

here comes the Hurtigruten/ Coastal Express
in night that is not

and there’s another little vessel
flag of a country no one will know
comes chugging into view
what luck to have set sail in this

a herringbone calligraphy
feint moon ended

this is the way beyond the world

in through windows hereabouts
and shone along a beach

as if this last first searing
set islands here on fire

now east and west were rise and set
in all the innocence I knew

it’s not as if this makes any sense
but somebody knows how it goes
anyway everyone here’s up and doing

still there’s so much to do!
so many falling down farms and houses
embarrassed, all hours show
this sun still stands
makes spectacle
of itself
and of us all

part of the village came out specifically

lazy grass bears lounge under their ledges
the old troll woman high over scree
is still trying to get some sleep

it was the sun would never set
rising for us now

as if a fire were lit beyond
to dip and lift
that we’d behold
sky of changes

as if
as if
the sea was set
the sky was cast a mood

and some for mauve
for azure
run out of colours to call

a little east west bounce along
to run a little world around

how few were watching this
and did the midnight sun see us?

a question you’d sleep off

all along it was behind us
following the car
except when out in front

and on the up and up from now

a magic in the golden glow

rests on a roof as good as sleep
brighter than the dream


then a few days later at sea, though the sun seemed higher at the lowest there
midnight sun at sea
on the Hurtigruten’s MS Richard With
Svolvær (Lofoten) and onto the Norway Mainland

The sun was shining on the sea, 
It made the billows bright, 
And this was odd, because it was 
The middle of the night.
        Lewis Carroll

aboard and in pyjamas
now we have 360°
waving shores smell fish

up all night first time for years
for this beyond romantic

slow coasts in a shining

we of the underwisp
called to cloud
among mountains

first come so far was young Pytheas
now the ancients have come to bucket this too

midnight on deck
moment seared into seeing

the pinking dip
and up sun daisy
call it day again

morning, so to say, dozes with fog
an hour of breakfast still

come through Pillars of Hercules

which of us
will be so remembered
from a text forever lost?

how many cameras will fall overboard?
that’s luck in a wishing sea


travel is important to the process of poetry, but perhaps ironically in the sense of demanding presence to one’s here-and-now

and now I’m in Macao, on my way home, and a little jetlagged on the way…. more later on jetlag and Macao and how these inspire poetry…

but meanwhile Geoff Page’s review of my Poor Man’s Coat Hardanger Poems appeared in a place I will not mention, so I drafted Geoff a poem about my process in response:
my déjà voodoo
a little poem for Geoff Page

won’t ever be finishing itself
a piece of work one might say
but cut and come again
head like the song you know already

tree and stone and stream and sky
out of the blue clouds come over
just for instance or music sets off
hard line through a fog of chord

all the familiar crew
these rag and bone creatures
were sometime my pets
run the circus now

it’s only in echoes we live
only through the mirror we find what’s to give

midnight’s that glimmer
where the dream forgets me
leave inklings where I’ve been, will be
I can’t remember here

a stretch so slow of the imagination
might not notice you’re among
the most familiar things
where always you have been before

in picnic woods of somebody’s porridge
old friend sunlight shows
glad that you’ve already met so many
I hope you’ll come again

all of us are waiting here
that the journey might begin

There were also pieces last week about Norway and the oil (before and after), a kind of a long life cycle poem about a Norwegian (Nynosk) kids’ rhyme, a picture book text for kids about magic sunglasses and going through a troll and coming out the other end, and also a little piece for my field guide to Australian clouds…

and then there’s the list of what I thought I had been supposed to be doing at the beginning of the week…

perhaps also I should say more about drawing and painting and how these relate to writing on a daily basis…

but obviously we don’t have space for that here right now
… the point is that the process is full of surprises!

Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat  Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.

Poetry Writing Part 2

By | News, Poetry
a cheerio call from inside of the poem in its making 

here I am back again

happening to be in a Norway summer
high above the Arctic Circle
no chance of sunset at all
(see pictures, stay tuned for midnight sun)

…. and right now I am
making an example out of a poem 

here I am
writing a poem in the form of a poem
about the poem I’m shaping
(you could get a reputation for this kind of thing
… writing about the writing of it
being in the process…
telling the ways and means)

anyway, I do hope can you see me in here
some sign of life?
requires imagination…
and if I fall into prose, then I’m gone
(a million, dad would say)
you don’t get to make the poem
without first being in a poem
(that’s because poems are the most important of the many places poems are from)
all along, in this process
I am discovering the rules
I test them till they break
break them again and
here I am once more
breaking whatever rules had to be guessed
in its making [the poem’s, that is]
(and that’s a noun or that’s a verb
depending on apostrophe)

you have to keep up… it’s steep
but the views!

and midst of them
here I am
I make a little spectacle of myself
making the poem
(and need the spectacles too at this stage
to see the poem at all
[let these serve as the ‘objective conditions’])

the words here?
almost all inherited
I make up a few
but mainly make us of those provided

…this is all by way of introduction to the poem in the poem under construction
(always as ever)

first on paper
(see the picture!)
and then I’ll type up
(like climbing some stairs high into the text that had to be)

here is one from where I am far
(I know you’re waving but I can’t see
… must adjust reception)

this piece was going to be part of
immensity and wonder 
(now I’m not so sure)

motto first
when you’ve gone too far, go further 

(would be an epigraph but it’s mine
… I could dilate upon this later)

enough blather, this is the poem I was working on then
(couple of days ago)… it was on Day 1285 since the beginning of Project 366
(that was on the 1st of January, 2016, so now is July 2019… above the Arctic Circle, remember
… in other words, it was the 1285th draft in the series)

one day opened the door and summer came in 

just a little shy first
stood at the door to be beckoning

must have been hanging about outside

was as if it had been waiting
considering the curtains

I took a deckchair
hung out with the world

there were great swathes of big yellow

hung the world out to dry

summer stood like a statue then
still in the air
not quite a shimmer

not all there
nevertheless there were insects for proof
unidentified (each with the air of the just invented)

and still I remember those terrible eyes
and how this world is other-ended
but that is another story

for now
the south on all its stiff wings had arrived
to say day
the sky stood off

clouds forgot themselves entirely

all glowed
and cherished this moment
we each of us knew
would never
and never would
come again


back again
here I am
can you feel the rhythm in the repetition
(here and gone - fort! da!…
there’s good repetition and bad)

and here though that draft endeth
I will over time go back and fiddle

(a kind of Nietzschean ‘eternal return’
except that you’ll forget, go on
far and away
absorbed in new text
new adventures
boys own in my case…

because I can’t be in words twice the same
that’s not how language ever worked
or will

it’s a kind of Australian Norway I suppose I’m cooking up here
but is that the right thing to do?
especially when Norway’s so much more like New Zealand
(though without the earthquakes)

often I overwhelm myself with this sort of thing
(and it happens every day)
have to hold on to steady
because you

in deep of the mirror wading

this is where the poem must be

all my own

far ahead of the game

I need never have doubted myself

it’s a shallow swim through own muck
such as gods give
but the water’s too cold here
[I did though manage a whole minute in a fjord
but that was below the circle]

… so much ellipsis…

and back to the breach

you simply have to believe

keep brackets open here

Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat  Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.

Norway, where member blogger Kit Kelen is residing

Poetry Writing Part 1

By | News, Poetry

Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen is a resident of Bulahdelah and he has travelled extensively around the world. He is a poet, painter and academic who has published a dozen full length poetry collections and translated books of poetry in several languages. Kit is Emeritus Professor at the University of Macau. Right now he is residing in a little farmhouse in Norway, 10kms from the internet. We asked him to blog about poetry and the writing process and he sent us this wonderful response:

a draft of the poem for the process 

here I am gathering lines from the track

(peripatetic, that is to say)

this is the draft

of the poem

of the process

of bringing the poem to be

(you’d have to read it though, to know

you couldn’t just guess

that the track is the way the words

fall on the page)

these are the secrets that give me away


often wake to the words

there because

must have thought in that direction

left for crumbs to collect in the night

for stones to shine

so to say

titles could come in anywhere

because the poem won’t yet know

if it’s beginning or ever will 

I follow phrases down into the page

improvise just on this theme

were they there already?

come steady from the rain as well

sometimes I come in with them dripping

even ironic sunshone

I work the shadows for a doubt

find a self folded into the text

also always there already

that’s the voice to run

salute to all doors 

feel free to rock gently

in throes of yoga too


the lines afoot  the effort in  the heart come racing till

in fear of where I am

and might be otherwise

smoke rising from my ears

a sign

and breathlessly up in the work

hold a mirror

show the world my way

catch rain in my compass for bung

I have a little radar

for the poem yet to spin

please don’t expect to understand

or dwindle me interpreting

where I’ve been bitten

there’s the rub

and one day they will say of him

trudge as far as he would come

third person that he is

lazy in the pages

climbing never quite arrived

but saw the peak from the queue

the rhythm of machinery was with this

and hear the footsteps - hot breath after

see them coming for the crown

I never had

I never wore

death of me this shroud

and red pen after

when I can’t correct

slow and steady

no one wins

go like the belled sheep

through my own words

four paws where the stone is dry

but here today the track again

and I so many rhythms

implausible insect of this day’s invention







reflect on my better qualities first

they’re all in the work and its making

and there is the goat self I come impassably to

my cooling system sky

all that masked

at least I try

see ants when I hear the rain

that’s for a lame foretelling

in dots

then stand in the forest’s coat

buy time

scribble at the fact

I drip myself

to dot the page

it’s any forest takes me up

to pour out just these words


cuckoo begins me on a tune

as any little wings would

and the rain is a forest as well

come to

slip away from thought

a trill

and nowhere

write my name

consider then how much rain to a poem

how many suns?

a puddle and not to flow

track makes itself as well

and trippingly

how much slipping with down?

sometimes there’ll be a creek run of vowel

come like an inkling to call


light instances

dream in the vision as such

and hear the sky’s increase

an image

smell the soil - one too

take the thing at a run

be the rhythm 
under own spell 


I am constructing the flower machine

and how many words till it’s said

crawl into these least and hide

here for my vanish

and how about you

now you’ve come along this far?

I’m telling this to no one

you see how far I’m gone


all this wander in my woods

you simply must try at home